Syndicated radio personality Tom Joyner’s growing popularity is raising needed money for Black Colleges
He claims to be the “hardest working man in radio.” It is a routine
that has paid off handsomely for disc jockey/comedian Tom Joyner. In
recent months, he has begun to apply his charisma, wit, and skill to
the fund-raising efforts of historically Black colleges and
The syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show” is heard on the ABC Radio
Network weekday mornings on ninety-six stations nationwide and on the
Armed Forces Network. His listening audience is mostly Black, but the
show — which targets thirty-five to fifty-four-year-olds — is growing
in popularity among Whites.
In recent months, Joyner has helped several HBCUs to capitalize on
his increasing popularity by creating the Tom Joyner UNCF Black College
Funds. Each month a different school is chosen to receive the funds
raised by the foundation. Contributions have averaged about $25,000
To date, Joyner’s foundation has raised $125,000, according to Tom
“Killer” Joyner Jr., the radio star’s son and the foundation’s
administrator. This month, the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff became
the foundation’s eighth recipient. Meharry Medical College has been
designated for November’s award.
“We do it from the heart,” Joyner Sr. says. “I’m a product of an
HBCU school. My parents are products, my grandparents, and my sons.”
Joyner, a native of Tuskegee, Ala., graduated from Tuskegee
Institute (now Tuskegee University) with a degree in sociology. Killer
graduated from Howard. The younger son, Oscar “Thriller” Joyner, is an
alumnus of Florida A&M. Both sons travel on the road with their
The decision for the younger Joyners to attend HBCUs was a
no-brainer, according to the sons, who said that their father didn’t
pressure them to attend his alma mater.
“He told me and my brother that we could go to any school, but he was only paying for a Black school,” said Thriller.
Joining the Bandwagon
In Charleston, S.C. last month for a live show to kickoff the
fifteenth annual Moja Arts Festival that celebrates African, African
American, and Caribbean culture, Joyner Sr. says he started the HBCU
fundraising drive because, “There’s a need. It’s pretty obvious.”
The initiative to raise money for HBCUs is his new foundation’s
first project. Joyner created the foundation, “so that I can give
back,” he says.
“I’ve enjoyed a lot of success in my life and this is just one way to help others.”
Joyner had launched the fundraising campaign with a 900 telephone number.
“I thought we could get a whole bunch of calls on the 900 number.
It was not as good as I thought,” he says. “Then we said send us a
check [and the] money started rolling in. We get these stacks of checks
everyday and they’re not bouncing,” he said with his trademark grin.
“It has taken off. We [originally] thought we [would have] to rely [only] on alumni,” he says.
Now corporate sponsors are beginning to donate money. For example,
Joyner received a $2,000 donation from a local Burger King
representative in Charleston, and a car dealer pledged in a radio ad to
contribute $25 for each car sold for the next twelve months.
Sometimes Joyner’s fund-raising efforts get confused with The
College Fund/UNFC campaign. But there is a difference. The College
Fund/UNCF has about forty private colleges and universities it supports
annually. It also provides direct scholarships to African Americans
regardless of what institution they attend.
Joyner’s Foundation raises money for all HBCUs — public, private,
and land grant. And according to the junior Joyner, 100 percent of the
money collected goes to the schools and nothing goes to administrative
Because of their similar missions, the Joyner Foundation and The
College Fund/ UNCF have formed a partnership. However, Killer says, The
College Fund/UNCF gets no administrative support from the Joyner
Foundation. But The College Fund/UNCF, on the other hand, contributes
fifty cents for each dollar raised by the Joyner Foundation —
regardless of whether the foundation’s institution of the month is a
College Fund/ UNCF member.
“We were very impressed with the fact that Tom Joyner wanted to
help our schools,” says Bill Gray, president of The College Fund/UNCF,
adding that for Joyner to step forward and call on his national
audience to participate in this program to help needy Black students is
“That’s the kind of message we’ve been sending for fifty-four
years,” Gray says. “I called Tom and congratulated him [on his efforts]
and told him we needed to work together.”
Last year, Joyner appeared on The College Fund/UNCF’s televised fundraiser, The Parade of the Stars.
“This sends a valuable message to the community at a time that’s
critically important with the affirmative action retrenchment in some
educational quarters,” Gray says, alluding to the passage of
Proposition 209 in California and the November vote on Proposition 200
in the state of Washington.
Joyner frequently takes his show, which is based in Dallas, on the
road. Every Friday is Funk Friday, which features musical artists who
made their claim to fame in the 1970s, and Joyner uses the weekly
occasions to visit cities that air his show. Joyner and his “posse”
even tagged along with President Bill Clinton on his tour of Africa
Recently, Joyner made guest appearance a on the NBC-TV “Today”
show. During the summer, he was the subject of a feature spot on
“Today.” Dr. William “Bill” M. Boyd II, an associate at the Poynter
Institute for Media Studies, sees these appearances as
“I like the things he’s doing,” Boyd says. “Joyner has gotten
people to contribute, and I think that’s great. It’s not something
that’s been done [before], that I know of. Anything to get people, who
otherwise wouldn’t, to be charitable is wonderful.”
As for others following Joyner’s lead, Boyd says, “I don’t know if
it will have an effect on others, but clearly, he’s doing something
different and effective. I don’t know [if others will follow Joyner’s
lead], but I would hope so.”
Although Boyd particularly likes the program because Joyner and his
crew provide encouragement to people, he also notes, “You get a lot of
laughs, and you learn something too.”
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